Day 20: May 4, 2022 Derrick Knob to Mt Collins Elevation Profile +3977/-2793 13.0 Miles; Total 202.8 Miles

The weather phenomenon occurred. This morning shortly after midnight, the sky erupted in thunder, lightning and mega rain! Our campsite was full with hikers and we all expected rain. Our tents were primed for relentless precipitation. The most beautiful fact was that when I woke up this morning, there was a window of opportunity to pack up without the downpour. My tent and everything else was wet, but I was dryish while packing up. Big win.

Colorful Smokey’s

Blue and I had an early start as we knew today was going to be our biggest miles yet, and highest elevation gains. We were headed to Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the AT. We had our umbrellas ready for deployment and off we went. There was no one else on the trail when we took off. We planned to stop at the first shelter, regroup, dry our tents and carryon. We made good time and covered over five miles before 10am. With rain, muddy paths and hill climbing, that was a respectable time. We stopped at the shelter, pulled out our soggy dirty tents and relaxed for a bit.

Tents Hanging in the Breeze

Both Blue and I commented on the fact that the AT scenery has been pretty much the same for the past few days. However, that all changed within a mile or two. As we started climbing above 5000’ the trees grew taller with spruce-firs, pines and large sycamores. The ferns, moss and ground covering was thick with red squirrels scampering around. We even saw a red salamander that was notorious for these parts. The trees had the deepest brick red color that was out of this world. It was truly the prettiest part of the trail that I have seen to date.

Red Salamander was not Injured during this Photo Op

We stopped briefly for lunch, but it started raining on us so that was short lived. We packed up and headed for Clingmans Dome. The highest point on the Appalachian Trail (and the third highest peak east of the Mississippi River) is covered in a spruce-fir forest, but a large observation tower provides fine views to the huge number of visitors to the peak. The tower was built in the late 1950s, and provides a handicap-accessible ramp to the highest view on the Appalachian Trail. The issue for us is with the rain, and cloud cover, we got skunked from the views. But I did pass the 200 mile marker. Clingmans Dome is exactly 200 miles north of Springer Mountain! Blue and I walked the ramp, took some pics and then beat feet back to the trail. We still had over four miles to go to get to camp.

Clingmans Dome

With the exception of the Dome, we really didn’t see too many people on the trail today. I can only imagine it had something to do with the rain and the fair-weather hikers. We don’t really get a choice as to hike or not in the rain. We only have so much food and if we sit and wait the rain out, then we are short on food. So rather than starve, we hike. We made it to our new home around 5pm. It was a long day but I was feeling pretty good considering all that we did today. 13 plus miles, almost 4000’ elevation and only two slides down a slippery rock. I call that success!

Fir Grove with Moss & Ferns

We found a couple of bare spots to pitch our tents and planned to start dinner. Before that, we had to get water and it turned out to be a .3 mile hike down a rocky trail. If I could’ve cooked with dirt and not water, I would’ve but no such luck. We both fetched water, made dinner and hit the hay by 7pm. We are definitely not the party animals of the campsite. And honestly, I think everyone else was feeling the pain of a long, wet day. Camp was shutdown by Hiker Midnight 9pm sharp!

Happy Kelly with 200 Miles at Clingmans Dome

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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